05 December 2014, The Tablet

Scottish 'should welcome' devolution of abortion law

A leading pro-life campaigner has said that the Scottish people should “welcome” the possibility that abortion law will be devolved to Holyrood.

Responding to a paragraph in the Smith Commission Report suggesting that abortion is an anomalous health reservation, Chris Whitehouse, a trustee of the Right To Life Charitable Trust, has said that unless there is a “passionately argued” reason for retaining abortion law in Westminster, “in logic it will be devolved”.

Speaking to The Tablet, Mr Whitehouse said that, as things currently stand, “there is already de facto abortion on demand, with many carried out on quite spurious grounds, because the baby is a girl, because of minor handicaps, right up to birth”.

Mr Whitehouse predicted that “there will be a fundamental review of abortion law after the coming general election, both in Scotland, and in England and Wales. There is, of course, a precedent for change. Northern Ireland already applies different principles. If I were Scottish, I would be welcoming the suggestion that abortion law be devolved.”

The Smith Report on further devolution powers for Scotland, chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin and published on 27 November, suggests in section 61 that “the parties are strongly of the view to recommend the devolution of abortion and regard it as an anomalous health reservation. They agree that further serious consideration should be given to its devolution and a process should be established immediately to consider the matter further.”

The right of two West of Scotland midwives to conscientious objection has already been established under Scottish law, but their case is currently before the Supreme Court following further appeals from the health trust concerned. The Right To Life trust works closely with the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group.

Of concern to some groups is the possibility that differences in abortion law in England and Scotland could lead to a form of “health tourism”, with some women seeking abortion under more liberal provisions should Scotland legislate for more restrictive parameters for elective termination.

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99